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26 December 2013

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Jenny

My second had an LMP due date on Thanksgiving (her real due date was several days later) and our neighbor was also pregnant but not due until the middle of December. My neighbor had her daughter Thanksgiving Day while I had to wait for the better part of another week. Talk about wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Jenny

Paternity leave...I have so many thoughts about it. In theory I am generally in favor of it. It is good and beneficial, especially in these days of being far from extended family, for the father to be able to take several weeks off of work to help with the baby and basically run the household. I think it is good for society to recognize the contribution of fathers in the household beyond his paycheck. Setting aside days specifically for paternity leaves seems like a good way to reinforce the message. Now do I think this paternity leave should run on for months? No. I don't generally think maternity leave should run on for years either so apparently I am not a European.

That being said, it tries my patience to see all of this talk about paternity leave. My local paper ran a big spread a few weeks ago on the need for paid paternity leave. The justification was that since 60% of mothers in Tennessee have access to maternity leave, it was time to turn our attention to paternity leave. Um, excuse me? I am quite certain that I would be counted in their 60% statistic and yet I have not had one damn day of maternity leave while working full time.

I have been allowed to forgo years of vacation in order to take it all at the same time. Days that I earned in the same way my co-workers earned them. They go on vacation; I have children. I believe in the long term I have made the better choice, but in the short term, it gets old and tired to come to work day after day. I have prayed that no one gets seriously sick or that I am ever ordered bed rest while pregnant because then my 'maternity' leave would evaporate. We have managed to continue getting a paycheck during my recovery from childbirth, but it is due to our ability to slog through and not from any type of maternity benefit. And as a professional in an office environment, I have one of the better situations. I cannot imagine how it is for more blue-collar workers who don't even get paid sick or vacation leave to accrue.

Our society is bent on eliminating all gender distinctions, but the hard fact is mothers give birth and fathers don't. So until the women who are actually birthing these children are allowed a proper recovery period without risking the poorhouse, don't even talk to me about extra paid paternity leave.

Bearing

"Access" is a big weasel word when people are talking about benefits, I have noticed this year. "X will gain access to Y" is sneakily used to imply that X will get Y as a free benefit (like you, who is in the 60% that has "access" to maternity leave but can't afford to take it), at the same time another writer will insist that "P doesn't have access to Q" when what he really means is that P has to pay for Q. The meaning of the word shapeshifts depending on the political goals of speaker and audience.

Amy F

I worked for state govt. pre-kids and everyone said the pay was low but benefits were great.

Like Jenny, my "paid" maternity leave consisted first of my 4 weeks accumulated sick leave (the accumulation of 2.5 years working and very little sickness) and 2.5 weeks vacation time (accumulated during the pregnancy where I took a total of 1/2 a day off). I got to essentially double that pay because I chose to pay into short-term disability over those 2.5 years, so that gave me 2/3 pay for those same 6 weeks. However, if I'd had the type of pregnancy where coming into the office until I was 40.5 weeks wasn't feasible (and actually, they took pity on my massive self during an icy February and I mostly worked from home that last month), I would have been paid $0 for my 13 weeks FMLA guaranteed leave.

As for paternity leave, I grumble every time my husband's boss's wife (at a Catholic prep school) has a baby and comes back to school the next day. Dan has always been able to take his week paid sick leave but that's only because he hasn't been sick the rest of the year.

If this baby comes more than a week early, he'll be frantically correcting finals while taking care of the rest of us, but maybe a late June EDD will work itself out.

I'm in favor of any policy that recognizes that welcoming a new baby into a household is a huge deal and the more family around to help, the better.

Jenny

Access *is* a weasel word. The issue of maternity leave annoys me because I feel like this country used up all its social energy on making sure women had the right to murder their children instead of passing policies that actually help women. The maternity leave policies in Europe were passed while we worried about abortion. Yippee for us!

Talked to my husband about it and he never felt like he got special praise for taking care of the kids. He was more likely to get the stink-eye in public until the store clerks got used to seeing him so he doesn't have much experience with the Hosanna chorus. He doesn't see the big deal about specific paternity days or just calling it parental leave. His attitude is that of course the father should take some time off work to run the household while the mother recovers if it is possible, but that probably would only take a few weeks. He also thinks that everyone should have access to paid time off when dealing with some type of critical situation whether that is a new baby or cancer treatments.

I can say from experience that when my oldest was born and my husband was still a band director, he only had a day or two off and it sucked big time. My parents stayed with me for the first week and then he took the first two days off after they were gone and that was it. He went back to working 12 hour days, six days a week and it was just me and baby at home, alone and overwhelmed. He would have taken more time off if he could have, but it wasn't possible. So there we were.

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